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Trouble In LA, LA Land: Clippers 92, Celtics 90

 

iClippers 92, Celtics 90 * Opposing Perspective: ClipperBlog

The Celtics were due for one of these. That doesn’t excuse it though, or make it hurt any less. In a letdown performance coming off of the biggest win of the year in Orlando, the C’s let the Clippers steal one from them. For the 2nd year in the row out in LA, after leading the entire 2nd half,  Baron Davis hit a buzzer beater over Rajon Rondo for the win after Rondo missed 2 free throws with a second left on the clock.

Now, this wasn’t your classic letdown performance. The C’s actually played fairly well for a good portion of this game. The problem was they were never able to put the Clippers away. I don’t blame the C’s for this. LA’s junior varsity squad is a solid team, despite their subpar record and had some impressive performances tonight, specifically from Chris Kaman and Baron Davis.

The C’s stretched out their lead out to 10 points midway through the 3rd, but the Clips went on a 6-0 run at the end of the quarter to close it to 4. And that’s where it floundered for the majority of the 4th quarter, with the door remaining ajar for Baron Davis and company to sneak in for the victory. And that’s exactly what happened.

Execution was really the entire story in the final 2 minutes. The C’s clung to a 4 point lead thanks to some timely steals by the team’s new spark plug Tony Allen (more on him later). At this point the C’s had 2 offensive possessions coming off of timeouts where they simply failed to execute. Both times they took contested 3′s from Rasheed Wallace and Ray Allen and missed them both. Granted, it’s times like this where the absence of The Truth looms larger than ever, but the team clearly didn’t get the shots they wanted in that sequence. The team wasn’t hitting from the outside all game, (1/12 on the night) so going to contested 3′s in that sequence came back to bite the team.

Execution or a lack thereof also was apparent on the other side of the floor. Up 3, with 10 seconds left, Ray Allen made a major mental mistake leaving open the Clippers’ best 3 point shooter in Rasual Butler, collapsing on Baron Davis instead. With that little time left, you have to protect the arc and the C’s failed to do that. Basketball 101 right there. Kudos to Baron Davis for collapsing the D and making the pass in that sequence as well, but Butler should never have had the wide open look.

That left a tied ball game with 8 seconds left. Another opportunity for the C’s. Doc put the ball in Rondo’s hand for this final sequence and the point guard confidently took the ball to the hoop and drew the foul on Baron Davis. This is a huge development in my book, as Rondo has been hesitant in end of game sequences to make a strong drive and instead had settled for contested jumpers that have little chance of going in.

The problem here of course, is there is a reason Rondo doesn’t have the ball in his hands too much at the end of the game. His FT shooting has improved but he still shoots at a 54 percent clip this year. Combine this with him having too much time to think about the free throws during the official review of how much time was left on the clock, (two tenths of a second too much in my estimation were left on with 1.5 seconds being put on) led to Rondo predictably bricking both.

Baron Davis proceeded to come down the other end and hit a fadeaway 20-footer in Rondo’s face for the win with 0.1 left on the clock. Rondo could have likely done a better job denying the ball to Davis on the play, but I don’t fault his contesting of the shot much; he looked as if he were trying to avoid the foul more than anything else. Davis took a very tough shot and made it. He executed and Rondo didn’t down the stretch. It’s as simple as that.

A tough sequence for sure. Doc said it after the game that the C’s beat themselves here and he’s right. They had every opportunity to win this game but give the Clips some credit too. They made some tough shots and Chris Kaman made Perk look bad for the first time on defense all year (27 points).

All that said, it will be interesting to see how this team responds to this one. Their west coast trip last year was greeted with a similar swoon with losses in LA, Golden State and Portland. Will they come out motivated or lethargic off a back to back? Will Rondo remain as aggressive or his last second struggles get in his head? Time will tell.

Some leftover bullets now, before I pack it in:

As I mentioned before a lot of good in this game despite the loss. Some quick glimpses of things that stuck out.

* Tony Allen: Another solid performance with a double-double(!) of 10 points and 10 rebounds including 3 offensive. TA continued to fill on that stat sheet with 4 assists, 4 steals and only 2 turnovers in a team high 40 minutes. 2 of those steals came during the last 3 minutes of the game with TA taking one coast to coast for a big layup with 2 minutes left to give the C’s the aforementioned 4 point lead. The other steal should have been a fast break bucket too, but the C’s decided to run more clock after a 3 on 1 break.

In any case, TA provided great energy and defense all night long, playing unselfishly and within himself on offense. As evidenced by his high minute total, he was crucial to this team tonight and finding a niche for himself offensively in the starting five by getting out with Rondo on the breaks. Performances like these are becoming less and less of a pleasant surprise. Let’s hope he can keep it up.

* Glen Davis with an extremely productive 8 points and 6 boards (5 offensive) in just 15 minutes. The C’s won the battle of the boards tonight 37-33 and Davis was a big reason why. Having a bruiser like Davis back, a guy who is willing and actually likes to get his hands dirty inside off the bench unlike Sheed, will hopefully be a boon to this team’s rebounding problems as a whole.

* Rondo as a whole had a solid night offensively, setting the tone from the onset and was aggressive in looking for his shot within the game (9/16) from the night. Minus the hiccups in the final couple minutes, he had this team in position to win.

* Chris Kaman had himself a night with 27 points and 12 rebounds. That is easily the best line a center has put up against Perk this year and no doubt will leave him riled up tonight by allowing an opponent to go off like that. Zach Lowe predicted this well in his preview, that Perk can have trouble with a center with a good assortment of post moves a la Andrew Bogut so Kaman fit that bill tonight. Hopefully, its a good learning experience for The Beast.

* Rasheed Wallace had me excited by playing so much in the post during the 1st half. The team kept feed him when Brian Skinner was on him and he took advantage. But then Brian Skinner came out. And Sheed kept shooting….and shooting…and shooting. A team high 16 shots on the night and only 4 makes. 0 of 6 from downtown including a big miss from the corner in the closing minutes. (Does he ever make that corner 3?) Too many shots tonight for 30. It’s been nice though that I haven’t had to write about this for awhile though until tonight…..let’s hope it stays that way.

* Clippers shot 50 percent from the floor tonight and 40 percent from downtown. Both numbers are way too high. The C’s weren’t sharp defensively tonight when it mattered. They will have to tighten things up against the run and gun Warriors tomorrow.

* C’s only 1/12 from downtown. Again, missing Paul here hurts, but it’d be nice to see Ray or Eddie get hot from deep one of these days. Hated seeing the team take contested 3′s in crunch time.

* Just 11 turnovers for the C’s, a good sign since this is generally the team’s achilles heel. They found other ways to hurt themselves tonight.

* I know Doc likes to spread the floor in crunch time but I still hate having Sheed out there, especially when he hasn’t hit many shots all night. He lacks a conscience and shoots at will when he gets the ball so given how unselfish the rest of the team is, having him out there on he’s had a cold night seems counterproductive to me. Plus Perk is component offensively now, why not keep him in down low for layup/rebound?

* I thought Rondo was the worst free throw shooter in the league….then I saw DeAndre Jordan tonight. Career 37 percent from the line. Woof. He sure can throw down some monster dunks though.

*All in all, this loss should give Doc some good ammo to keep the boys fighting hard through the rest of this trip. Again, good to see the role players from the bench stepping up in Pierce’s absence. Now the rest of the aging troops have to follow suit for the rest of this trip.

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  • dont_drink_the_koolaid

    - i was really happy to see RR get the ball to close the game. i had no faith in his ability to make the free throws, but he needs that experience. he’s a competitor and will be in the gym even more now…maybe even pick up a jumpshot. this guy is the future of team, gotta give him the chances to grow.
    -when will Doc or the rest of the team push sheed to stay in the paint? this is a chronis illness that must be stopped. its not cute anymore, its damaging
    - what was ray thinking to strong collapse on davis. they were up by 3? huge mental error
    - go tony!
    - go baby!

  • Idaho

    DON’T DRINK THE KOOL AID, kool aid!

    Rondo’s contribution to this team is not to be underestimated and I know this will irk you Rondo lover’s but let’s be honest…

    As the great Clint Eastwood put it ” a man has to know his limitations” and the fact of the matter is in close-game situations rondo needs to be on the bench or have very little to do with these game-winning situations.

    Rondo has not earned the ball in the final minutes. Think about it, horrible free-throw shooter and jump shooter. Under pressure he will shoot even worse.

    Any smart coach will have his defense meet him at the rim and foul him hard, beg him to shoot the jumper. HE CAN”T GROW IN THAT POSITION if he sucks at it WITHOUT pressure.

    Boston does not hurt for ppl who can produce in this situation. Did you see Baron Davis during RR free’s? There was no doubt in his mind Rondo is missing those. Then pathetic defense to boot, no not smart, pathetic -D- at the end of games is Rondo’s forte.

    You put your faith in this kid in close-game situations and Celtic fans are going to end up dissappointed. Shucks, big baby is more of a killer than Rondo at the end of games!

  • Idaho

    The paradox of Rajon Rondo

  • Cptn Bubbles

    I agree with Koolaid’s point that Rajon is such a competitor that he will be shooting thousands of ft’s now. He loves the unorthodox–such as all those beautiful bank shots he takes & makes. If there was a consistent way to bank a ft in he would be great at that. Or maybe the unique form & spin of the granny shot would be something he could master. However he does it, I think Rajon has to learn to take the love he has for the bank shot, bounce pass, steal, & ball fake and feel that same love, interest, & enjoyment for the ft. Most people say ft’s are mostly mental. If you step to the line hating ft’s it will probably be a bad trip. I always loved ft’s, & I feel like that had a major impact on my success. I remember the first time I shot what was basically a free throw at a state fair (where they put tape around the rims to make the hole smaller). I was determined to make it, & I actually got pretty good at it– much to the disgust of the guy handing out prizes. You can put an apparatus on the goal to make the hole smaller. That is what Rondo needs–really challenge himself to a whole other level of precision. At first, it will be very hard, but he is stubborn enough to get a whole lot better by pushing himself harder.

    I agree with Idaho, in that, when it’s the final minute you should have the ball in the hands of Paul & spread the court with 4 shooters. That opens up a ton of possibilities. I love Rondo, but you have to use strategy & play the situation not the player.

    I don’t understand how KG can get def. rebounds but zero off. rebounds. Shouldn’t he have somewhat similar effort/numbers on the off. glass? What is it about TA & Baby that allowed them to get off. boards? It seems like the rebounds are there for an aggressive player, even a shorter guard. I don’t see Rondo blocking shots, taking charges, or putting a body on somebody driving so maybe he should, since he has been good at rebounding in the past, focus in more on offensive rebounding. Everyone knows that most nba players hate playing defense. It has to be emotionally & psychologically devastating & demoralizing to see the other team get an offensive rebound=oh no, I have to play even more defense.

    We probably have all played ball with people who had no conscience who could shoot us out of games. The answer was always don’t pass it to them or only pass it to them when they had a higher percentage shot. Since Sheed has no understanding of having an off night from 3, & Doc is too scared to sub him out when Sheed loses any & all self discipline for shot selection, it falls on the other 4 players on the court to resist the temptation to pass the ball to Sheed at the 3 pt line. The other 4 players have to take matters into their own hands & NOT pass Sheed the ball unless he is in the post. Sheed does some things extremely well, but he does have 2 major weaknesses. Since he can’t control himself & Doc can’t/won’t control him, the only practical answer is for the team to take charge of the situation & NOT pass the ball to him at the 3 pt line when he is on one of these binges.

  • Idaho

    Great points bubbles. The FT is not that difficult of a shot especially if you are short (for the NBA). Who is coaching this kid, have you seen that set-up at the line? Or is he not listening to anyone with the ft’s?

    I know rondo is the future of the celtics in many ways but he is so far from the go-to-guy at the end of games that we should be focusing on our plethora of offensive alternatives (outside of PP and RA) at the end of games to win a championship. If we rely on RR at the end of games we will sorely be disappointed.

    The Sheed situation is just as troubling. I have just been troubled by Rondo’s defense and offense at the end of games for some time now and since he is the future of the celtics it scares the crap out of me he still doesn’t work hard at the end of games in my opinion on the defensive end.

  • Shamrock Stu

    One game does not make a season. The Celtics just came off an emotional win, flew out West, no Pierce, G Davis just getting back in the flow: the situation was ripe for a let down (read Doc’s after game comments). Look, Rondo has made incredible strides in his game but still has some areas needing focus … remember he’s still only 23 and leading the most storied NBA team in history. His teammates are the ones who have faith in him and support him, even if some of us fans have our doubts. No need to push the Rondo panic button. However, the jury is still out on the Sheed verdict.

  • Corey

    I just do not understand why Rondo would have the ball in that situation. Rondo is at his best when teams slide off of him and he is able to take that short pull-up jumper, or get a full head of steam going to the basket before anyone can rotate back on to him. The one time where teams play up tight man to man D is at the end of these games where nobody wants to get beat by there man. He should have drawn a double team and kicked out to either Ray Ray or Eddie for an open jumper. Ray Ray has shown a flair for the dramatic his entire career, including several game winners with the Celts. Why not get the ball into the hands of your best available offensive player at the end of the game.

    Gorman discussed Baron Davis’ flair for the dramatic just prior to the game-winner against the Celts. It just makes me wonder why they wouldn’t do the same and get the ball in their best player’s hands

  • http://thinkshesmorelike.wordpress.com/ jylze

    I think everyone is being too hard on Sheed. I agree Perk should have been in at the 5 at the close, but the C’s needed a bucket and nobody was hot. He got the ball in his hands and did what he was likely told to do. Of course I would have preferred he slow it down and not take that shot, but I hardly blame him for having an off night.

  • Idaho

    0-6 after weeks of bad shooting. I agree with Bubbles that he lacks a conscience sometimes.

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    0-6 after weeks of bad shooting. I agree with Bubbles that he lacks a conscience sometimes.

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